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Frost - "Experiments in Mass Appeal" (CD)

Frost - "Experiments in Mass Appeal" CD cover image

"Experiments in Mass Appeal" track listing:

1. Experiments in Mass Appeal
2. Welcome to Nowhere
3. Pocket Sun
4. Saline
5. Dear Dead Days
6. Falling Down
7. You/I
8. Toys
9. Wonderland

Reviewed by on August 9, 2009

"'Experiments in Mass Appeal' is invigorating and varied prog for demanding prog fans, and the lyrics are refreshingly devoid of clichés."

Frost, the modern progressive rock quintet headed by Jem Godfrey andwhich boasts notable progressive rock figures John Jowitt and Andy Edwards (of IQ fame) among its ranks, delivers a sophomore record that succeeds admirably and avoids the sophomore slump. Prog nerds rejoice, because the standards for quality prog have all been met here. Not content to simply differentiate from modern rock with time signatures beyond the typical ones, Frost delivers something of a refreshing trip above the standard prog fare. This album leaves a nice minty-fresh aftertaste in your mouth, well beyond that of prog bands that have become typical.

Memorable is what Frost aims for with “Experiments in Mass Appeal.” On the opening title track, the beating of a heart, an acoustic guitar, light piano, and vocals bring in a rising and building giant of a song that will span 8 minutes. Vocal talent is established right away, with four-part harmony present, as well as a talent for crafting memorable melodic movements, which repeat several times and build on each repetition. This culminates beautifully towards the end of the song with stunning clarity. “Welcome to Nowhere” shares an affinity with Dream Theater in the guitar riffing, but has a more accessible song structure. Prog fans will love the good use of effects on the vocals, as well as the synthesizer sounds and guitar passages. Piano is also thankfully present in most of the songs.

“Pocket Sun” explodes with technically proficient instrumentation and a heavily melodic and memorable chorus, filled to the brim with lush vocal harmonies and a sound in the style of Dream Theater and Muse. The keyboard/guitar solo combination in this song is also quite fun, and doesn’t smack of instrument wankery for wankery’s sake. In contrast to it, “Saline” follows it with a lighter tone, which the band carries very well. Refreshingly emotional and personal lyrics are garnish to the beautifully somber and delicate guitar and piano in this piece. “…And I don’t know if I can survive the feeling, losing all that’s mine,” builds into the most memorable melodic movement of the album, with repetitions of powerful lyrics.

Not content with settling here, “Dear Dead Days” brings keyboards en masse in arpeggiated glory, with some ridiculously fast and accessible passages. “Falling Down” boasts the most impressive keyboard solo on the album as well as the same competent, accessible, and memorable songwriting. “Toys” has a fun and driving upbeat song structure, while “Wonderland” encompasses two songs that differentiate from “Toys.” The band manages to build their songs from the ground up, create momentum, maintain it, show some musicianship tastefully, and differentiate writing styles through most of the album while still maintaining a distinct feel.

A lot of prog is needlessly tedious, too showy, or forced, but the prog of “Experiments in Mass Appeal” feels natural. Nothing is rigid about it, although they’ve clearly built off of past progressive rock sounds, and the showy aspects are more cool afterthoughts than they are centerpieces. Frost has developed to be the prog nerd’s prog band without alienating musicianship geeks or fans of rich melody. “Experiments in Mass Appeal” is invigorating and varied prog for demanding prog fans, and the lyrics are refreshingly devoid of clichés.

Highs: Layered vocal harmonies, keyboard solos, adherence to prog standards, and diversity of sounds under a unified feel.

Lows: More rock than metal.

Bottom line: An excellent album for exacting fans of heavy progressive rock – one that proves you can sound different on each track while still being recognizable.

Rated 4.0 out of 5 skulls
4.0 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)